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The Bible treats excuses in a manner which confirms the doctrine.
ners of old, who plead a natural inability of obedience. In the time of the prophet Jeremiah, there were those who alledged that God's decrees created the unavoidable necessity of sinning. They said they could not help it. But God, by his prophet, instead of conceding the doctrine, repelled it with indignation.
• Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?' Jer. vii. 8, 9, 10.
Does God approve of men's reasoning, when they say, God has decreed it, and God executes his decrees, and a resistless fate moves us on to evil. Far from it. In what stronger language could the Lord speak to hardened and impudent men, who laid their sins at his door? Now the fall itself was some how comprehended in God's decrees; and if it be true that the fall took away all man's natural ability, wherein were those Jews wrong? Their excuse was that their sins were produced by the fatality of God's decrees. They were delivered to do all these abominations. Their fathers had eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth were set on edge. By the sin of Adam they had lost all free agency, and therefore they were not to blame; all was just as God would have it; an inexorable fate drove them on, and how could they resist the Almighty? But if God did indeed require spiritual obedience from men who lay
A free agent able to choose either way, life or death.
in a state of natural impotency, how is it that he frowned so indignantly, when they pleaded their impotence in bar of judgment?
Again, in Ezekiel, xxxiii. 10, we have the following language:
• Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel, Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be on us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?'
Now, suppose they had been born blind, and God had commanded them to see, and they had replied, Our blindness and darkness sits heavily upon us, and we pine away in it, and it is impossible for us to see, how then can we escape thy displeasure? Would God in such a case have answered:
"I have no pleasure in your blindness, which it is impossible for you to remove. As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in your blindness, therefore open your eyes and see ye?
Does God call men to turn, when a natural impossibility lies in the way, and punish them forever, for not turning? That is not like God. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? The representations of the Bible attach obligation and accountability to a free agent as being able to choose both ways; as having ability to choose life, or to choose death. For what is written in Deut. xxx. 11–20:
See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his
Natural power essential to obedience as well as disobedience.
judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him.
If it be said that men are free to evil and accountable for doing wrong, I answer, if God commanded men to sin, that might suffice; but if he commands them to stop sinning, and they have no free
agency to do it, and it is a natural impossibility to stop, how does free agency to do what is forbidden create obligation to abstain and do what is commanded, when they have no power? Besides, could they not sin without ability to sin? How then can they obey without ability to obey? And if they have free agency to obey, that is just what I am contending for. For they can no more obey without natural power, than they can sin without natural power. If man, as a free agent, has not natural power to obey, then commands, and exhortations, and entreaties, and expostulations might as well be addressed to men without the five senses; commanding them on pain of eternal death to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. This argument was used by Pelagius and Arminius; and in the forms they urged it, was easily answered; they brought it forward to prove not only that man is naturally able to obey God, but to prove that he actually does obey the gospel without special grace, that his will is under no bias from the fall, and that his moral
God, not the author of sin.
ability is so unperverted, that it is sufficient without regeneration, to do all that God has commanded. Augustine maintained that the will was entirely struck out of balance; Pelagius on the contrary maintained, that it remained in delightful equilibrio, and consequently that no grace of God was needed to determine it to a right choice, insisting that dependence on grace to change the will was inconsistent with commands and exhortations, &c. But Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and all the reformers fully admit the ability of man as a free agent, and deny that his moral inability and dependency as a sinner, supersede obligation, invitation, and command. The natural ability of man is a point which has never been controverted by the church at large, and generally only by heretics. The orthodox portion of the church of God never has questioned it; and denied only moral ability, i. e. a right disposition or will, in opposition to the Arminian and Pelagian heresies.
XV. The Scriptures and our Confession both teach, that God is not the author of sin—that he neither creates it, nor devises plans, nor adapts means, to break the force of his own laws and administration, so as purposely to prevent obedience and produce sin, as the natural and necessary result of his own power and agency. You may search the word and works of God with a microscope, and you cannot find any such thing as a plan tending to prevent obedience and to produce sin. You may light up ten thousand suns and search every cavern and deep recess of nature, and you can find no such thing. In The whole tendency of God's government is to prevent sin. the development of his character, law, gospel, and providence, he has produced powerful means of drawing his subjects to obedience, unobstructed by any counteracting influences designed to prevent obedience and produce sin. He has given no law against the moral law, and affords no motives to disobedience, and administers no providence to defeat the administration which corroborates the powers of law. All the tendencies of his government, law, gospel, and providential administration, are self-consistent and in unison. God tempteth not any man, neither can he be tempted of evil. The whole tendency of his government in the hands of the Mediator is, to lead the ruined rebel to break off his sins by repentance, and not to induce him to persist in them. God is not the author of sin. It comes against the whole moral influence of his glorious character, law, gospel, and government. Nor in its existence in fallen man,
6 is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second .causes taken away, but rather established.'
Of course I reject all theories of the origin or continuance of evil, which make God the author of sin. The Gnostic that he placed man in contact with sinful matter, to be unavoidably corrupted—or the Manichean, that it is a part of the created substance of the soul-or that it is a created instinct of our nature, perverting the will by the power of a constitutional necessity-or that all agency in creatures is impossible, and therefore, that God creates sinful and holy exercises, by a direct efficiency in such quantities and pro